Photogenic Fungi with Steve Axford – Mushroom Revival

Photogenic Fungi with Steve Axford

Your favorite mushroom photography is likely thanks to the work of our delightful guest, Steve Axford. The beauty and scientific accuracy of Steve's work has captivated national & international media, fungi experts, and anyone with an affinity for the odd and the beautiful. Steve shares his tips and tricks for capturing fungi on film, the unique places he's traveled to, and some unexpected observations of fungi that are only made possible with time-lapse photography.

Steve Axford is an ambassador for Sony Australia and has an international reputation as a specialist in nature photography with a particular passion in macro fungi photography. He also has a unique expertise in time-lapse photography of fungi. His work has been featured in BBC Planet Earth, National Geographic, Guardian Observer, Daily Mail UK, and more. .

See a movie trailer for Steve's upcoming movie, Plant Fungi!


Alex 0:18
Welcome back everyone to another episode of mushroom revival podcast. This is a podcast dedicated to bridging the gap between you our lovely amazing beautiful listeners and the wonderful wacky world of fungi. So we are mushroom revival we are absolutely obsessed with the healing power of mushrooms. And we bring on guests and experts from all over the world to geek out with us about the world of fungi. So you can check out our website at www dot mushroom data Bible comm Stay tuned, stay shrooms, we love you so much.

Lera 0:59
Today we have the famous Steve axpert who is an ambassador for Sony Australia and has an international reputation as a specialist in nature photography with a particular passion in macro fungi photography. He also has a unique expertise in time lapse photography of fungi. His work has been featured in BBC Planet Earth, National Geographic Guardian observer, Daily Mail, UK and more. The beauty and scientific accuracy of Stephens fungi photography has captivated national and international media, fungi experts and the general public with a following that stretches from Patagonia to Vladivostok, Russia, Stephen has an eclectic and truly fascinating photographic collection of fungi, plants, animals, and more. So Steve, thank you for not only blessing us with your presence today, but also your extremely beautiful photography that I have been using as my desktop backgrounds for years now.

Steve 1:56
Well, thank you for inviting me.

Lera 1:58
So can you start off by telling us what brought you into the world of photography and moreover to fungi?

Steve 2:05
Well, I guess it started to happen about 20 years ago, my wife at that time died of breast ***. And I had a life threatening illness, which took up about two years. And then after that, I was really looking for something a new direction in life, I guess. And I started going back into the bush and going by myself and wandering down long trails and stopping to take photographs, which meant that I needed to stop and I'd go to a location and just try and take nice photographs. And eventually I discovered fungus and the first first fungus I found was this amazing purple, bright purple fungus. I never seen anything like it. And I had a two megapixel camera with pitch. Now I've got a 16 megapixel camera. So there's a bit of a difference. But I put the camera down on the ground and took a photograph of this mushroom and I fell in love with mushrooms. And from that point on I started taking more and more photographs of mushrooms and things built from there.

Alex 3:11
And what other experience you have with mycology? Do you pick the mushrooms while you're photographing them? Do you eat them up? Have you ever grown them? Are you interested in the taxonomy? Or is it pure photography and videography?

Steve 3:26
Well, initially, it was just the photography I really knew very little about mushrooms. I guess if someone had asked me I probably would have been able to say that they're not plants. But beyond that really nothing. So I initially I just focused on colors that I was amazed at the variety of colors of mushrooms that you could find in Australia and I even catalog the mushrooms by color. But then I started gradually to learn a bit about the taxonomy started to read books and started to meet some Mike mycologists. And over time, I've been invited out to China by the couldn't mean Institute of botany on four separate occasions and probably again next year and to India twice. And the POW once I'm invited again and Myanmar and Thailand and I've been invited to Mexico though we couldn't go because of COVID so built from I was working in the computer industry so I'd been a scientist all my life. I've never known anything about the Earth Sciences at all. So that's built from absolutely nothing in 2000 to nine quite a bit about mushrooms by now

Alex 4:36
and I have your 2020 calendar right now and I'm so excited about it it i mean they're gorgeous and to flip over the page every month and see a new not only photograph, I mean it's gorgeous photography of these really eccentric beautiful mushrooms but also it's it's really cool. It comes with a little bio the mushroom and get to know the species more so that That's been an honor to hang on my wall. And even before we we got you on, we were looking at your red bubble photographs that you can get into clocks or t shirts or everything and word. It's dangerous. We

Lera 5:14
have quarter subs throw pillows.

Alex 5:16
Oh my god, what? Yeah, we're so excited to go shopping after this. And we just, I just saw a video of talking about the university in China. And can you just talk a little bit more about your relationship with that university, and then also, who invites you over to say, Myanmar or China? And what kind of relationships do those look like?

Steve 5:41
Well, this happened about six years ago, I suppose the professor at the Kunming Institute of botany, a South African, oddly enough, invited me over to you Nan in China to assist them with documenting the local Frankie species. So I take the photographs and be taxonomists to collect specimens and DNA sequencing on the specimens. And they produced a book which is in Chinese for National Park. Well, I don't know whether they call them national parks there, but the equivalent of the National Park in China, and since then, we've been out three or four times to China. And through them, we've had invitations to northeast India, where we've been twice, and we went with them to chin state in Myanmar, which is a very remote region on the western side of Myanmar. All of this is, yeah, it opens our eyes to the variety of mushrooms. But we also get to see an amazing variety of places where we travel to northeast India for a month and don't see a single European tourist, not one. So it's it's a surreal experience to be able to do. Yeah,

Lera 6:56
this honestly sounds like a dream job to travel the world and go hunting for all of these amazing fungi. And you're based in Australia, which is a place that's so unique in terms of wildlife, and everything, you know, this hunk of land has been separate from the rest of the land, you know, think back to Pangea. And that has been that's responsible for Australia's unique wildlife. Do you notice these types of distinctive characteristics in oceanic fungi?

Steve 7:29
Yes, there is a there is a difference in funghi. Here, we call it sanghi. Not fungi. But that's just a difference in pronunciation. The the wildlife and the fungus in Australia is essentially derived from Gondwana land, which was the one chunk that was left down south after pengie has started to split up. So the northern hemisphere countries basically separated out. And then Africa, Australia, South America, India, and Antarctica, one blog called Gondwana. And you can see that if I travel to South America, which I've done on several occasions, the vegetation and the wildlife has a certain similarity to to Australia, which Europe and North America don't have even the mushrooms in South America similar to Australia, their connections north south as well by now. So with my migratory birds, and so on, take fungal spores. So we saw I found some of the same family in new Nan that I found in Tasmania. So everything's been a bit mixed. But Australia fortunately has some unique fungal species, which tends to make my photographs a bit more popular because I represent things that you don't tend to see in North America or Europe.

Alex 8:53
Right, do you it is a two part question. One, do you have a favorite place in the world that you've been to that you just love? I mean, is abundant for fungal diversity, but also maybe the species that you find are amazing to photograph? And the second part of that, is there a place that you've been dying to go to photograph fungi that you haven't been to yet?

Steve 9:20
Well, the first question, I guess, where I am here is about as good as it gets. I mean, the fungal diversity is perhaps greater in some places, but the general diversity of life is pretty wonderful. Just about where I am as though you're going to new places. I've been to a lot of places, but there's far more places I haven't been to. I'd love to go to Siberia and look at the thank you there. But that's very difficult to do. One time I came across a place called Wrangel island which is north of north of Siberia on the Alaskan side. And it's a very strange place because it wasn't glaciated in the last ice age. You look at it and say this is right near the North Pole. How can it not have been glaciated, but it wasn't. And consequently, the biodiversity there is much greater than it is in other added places. But it's also incredibly expensive to get to. That will probably happen. Yeah, that probably will happen in another life.

Lera 10:18
So how many species have you photographed that weren't identified until you had come across them?

Steve 10:26
Oh, with their friends in unison with Nago mushroom hunting, they go out into the rain forest in Yun, and they find it about one in seven of the species that live find a new to science. Wow. And that happens year after year, they can even go back to the same place and get along. You know, the mushrooms, the new mushrooms that they find and still going to be one in seven is new designs. So there's actually quite a lot of the mushrooms are found a new species, but I couldn't number them there. There is one species that actually got named after me. It's penulis x 40. Ai. I think that's right. It's actually an elusive organic mushroom found in Kunming.

Alex 11:15
And when you find these mushrooms, do you ever take them to be DNA sequence? Are you just taking pictures of them?

Steve 11:23
Well, when we travel with the mycologist in your Nan, they they collect all the mushrooms for DNA sequencing. So they're all sequenced. I don't necessarily have haven't necessarily completed the loop and have all the correct names on my photographs. But all of those have been sequenced. All of the ones in Myanmar were sequenced. And in Thailand, and one of the trips to India, they made collections where they could because sometimes they were in what's called sacred groves. And you're not allowed to remove anything from the sacred grove. So they just looked at them and identified them by side,

Alex 12:05
do you ever take them and make a separate scenery somewhere else? So you maybe have a photography set up indoors, and you take kind of some moss and you set up a little terrarium or something? Do you ever pick the mushroom or you just leave it be?

Steve 12:21
I actually do quite frequently when say when I'm out with my friends in China, and they're mycologist. So they're collecting specimens anyway, so quite often now collected specimens and bring them to me. And then I have to, rather than me walk everywhere where they've walked, which would be probably impossible, given the time I'm taking photographs continuously. And then I'll put them in moss or in more or less than natural surroundings, always try and get them as they are, if it's possible. But sometimes you can't get an angle with a camera or the lightings are wrong, then there's my time lapse. And all of that is done in a shared or a half shipping container. Because you've got the day night cycle and you can't, it's got to be artificial light, otherwise, the lighting varies too much. So particularly with luminaires faggy, it's got to be night all the time, otherwise, you don't see the luminous fangers I always try and put the fungus to disturb the environment as little as possible, particularly in places where a lot of people go, if you're out in a forest where no one else is going to go there, it doesn't matter terribly much if you pick the fungus, that if you're in a well beaten national pack, you know, there's lots of other people there, you're removing part of the beauties that they see. So it's important not to damage the surroundings

Lera 13:47
is that your secret to capturing such vibrant bioluminescent fungi is bringing them in indoors into your shipping container and letting it luminous from there. Well,

Steve 13:59
that's the secret to time lapse. Most of the best photographs I've got well is a mix. Some of them are from time lapse sequences, and some of them are taken in the forest as you because often with luminous funghi there isn't a problem with light if you've got no light. So any small amount of light you might add with you know, artificial lights bit of reflected artificial light. But the fungus usually looks more natural in its natural surroundings. So to take it away and reset it is often a lot more work and you never quite get it right because you disturb the moss. Better to do it. Oh natural, but sometimes you have no choice.

Lera 14:39
I was wondering if you had any tips cuz I think Alex you told me about a time where you're foraging and if you actually flash a light onto the bioluminescent fungi, it'll kind of respond with this more vibrant light and they know if there was some kind of trick there.

Alex 14:57
I think you also need the right camera. Right, like you can't use the iPhone or something like that anyway, I've

Lera 15:05
tried many times to capture bioluminescence with my iPhone and never ever works

Steve 15:11
there's a couple of points that one is that bioluminescent Fang doesn't grow glow brighter if you shine a torch on it because it's bioluminescent rather than phosphorus and phosphorus and funghi will glow if you shine UV light on it and some like your your watch dial will retain the energy and glow for quite a long period afterwards luminous and find us and like that it glows from within itself.

Alex 15:40
I have another follow up question because I know a lot of our listeners maybe they are getting into mushrooms and maybe they're really big into foraging and you know one kind of complaint that a lot of ID groups on Facebook they always complain about people posting these blurry really bad pictures that people take of mushrooms and I get them all the time from friends and family you know they just snap it with their phone and it's really blurry is just the top of the mushroom and they asked you know, what is this and for people that are you know, wanting to get better with their mushroom photography wanting to capture images, you know, somewhat close or to to the ones that you take Do you have any tips for people wanting to get better with their own mushroom photography? Any cameras that you recommend any tips? Like I think the the shipping container moving indoors is a really good tip for time lapses. Do you have any other tips for beginners just getting into mushroom photography

Steve 16:43
well always you're always going to need something like a tripod or some steady thing to rest the camera on the mobile phones relatively easy because you can hold the mobile phone and risk that your hands on the ground the problem with mobile phones is they're not going to be terribly good in dim light and a fairly limited they've got they can't really do macro so they can get fairly close but they can't get your filler Philly image with a half inch mushroom get a if you can get a camera that's good with low light I use one yard I use a sunny a seminar for which is way too much for most people because it's a 16 megapixel camera and it's very high quality and to get to make the full use of it you need to really understand photography pretty well i think so for most people get something you know and say 20 megapixels, or even less. I've just been recommending to a friend they get a good a small 12 megapixel camera, but a few other hints would be never well as far as you can never take the mushroom in sunlight and best to take it in on an overcast days all the background is shaded as well. Because sunlight produces highlights and you get burned out bits on the picture, kid the angle right? If you can, for identifying a mushroom, it's always best to see the underside and the top because taxonomists like to see the gills what sort of gills that have got has it got gills? What color are they all these things? So it macro photography is quite complicated. I was lucky I guess I started from a very technical background. So I was interested in photography but I also started with very small cameras and worked my way up. So it's been a 20 year exploration of how to take photographs as well. You can't just jump into a really expensive camera and expect it to work for you

Alex 18:52
use other lights as well. I know for portraits or something you know you have a photo booth where you have a few lights you know you have your background light I'm not a photographer, so I don't know the specific lingo but I've seen you know the photography setups where there's a lot of different lights shining on the object. Do you use them at all or do you try to use dappled maybe cloudy, natural light

Steve 19:21
I apart from the time lapse where you're in a dark shared or dark shipping container and then you have to use then you have to use lights for lighting that with my still photographs outside I pretty well never use lights. So it's all it's all natural lighting I'll use I'll use a reflector and by reflector I just made a bit of aluminium foil, which just folded up in my pocket takes no room at all. And then I can just you know, you see news photographers and they'll be filming a person they'll have a guy standing next to the person with a big room. reflector, right, you need a big reflector for a person. But for a mushroom, you only need a piece of aluminium foil. You position that down low and reflect light underneath the mushroom. So if you take a picture that shows the gills, there's light on the gills so you can see them.

Lera 20:19
It's a great tip. We're gonna start bringing aluminum foil and our phrase,

Steve 20:24
yeah, get on a, an overcast day and take some aluminium foil with you.

Lera 20:29
And I'm just browsing through your website in the photo gallery right now. And it's it's endless beauty. This might be a crazy question. But do you have any remarkable fungi that stick out to you? I mean, all these pictures are so special, it would seem hard to choose. But I found one on your website where you were photographing pirate Phyllis fungi. So these are fungi that turn up after burn sites. And I was curious just about the story. Did you know that those fungi were going to be there? Or did you go to the burn site and just happen to see them? What other remarkable stories can you share?

Steve 21:06
Well, the fire Fang gi, we knew they would be there or we assumed they would be there. As you probably know, we had some pretty terrible bushfires all down the east coast of Australia last year. Now we're about about 20 kilometers from here, I suppose. So no danger to us personally. But people we knew were involved with the fires. And we went up. I think about two weeks after the fires or after the fires. We're out in our particular area and hoping to find some pirate Phyllis funghi. And we talk to the locals there. And we found quite a lot. And one of the thankee it's quite a big thing is it's probably eight inches across. It's called stone maker fungus. And it was coming up virtually before the fire was out just a day after the fire was out. Everything's still smoking. And this fungus would pop up out of the ground. And the only time it fruits is after fire. So the fungus lives there in the ground. And then when there's fire maybe 20 years, 40 years in one area. We were there they had notifier for 100 years, and yet this fire fungus would come up and then lots of other species would that only appear after fire. I think there's one that was research in your country and somewhere in America where they found that the fungus lives as a microscopic species. Inside moss when there's a fire it changes and becomes a macro fangers certain inhabits the sterilized ground. No way and huge mats. Yeah, fungus is extraordinary, because there's lots of fungus that can change their their way of life. They change from a microscopic organism to a macro organism.

Alex 22:52
I believe in panspermia where I totally think that mushrooms are aliens, and they came from space. And this is you know, I don't have anything to back this up. But you know, learning about fungi that are kind of activated by fire I always see in movies, you know, a rocket ship coming back, you enter it re entering the atmosphere and you always see the flames on the nose or, you know, an asteroid entering our atmosphere is always on fire. Yeah, I just have this theory that maybe those spores that were hidden in an asteroid were actually activated. They were you know, by by the heat. But again, it's just a fun story, nothing to back it up. But I thought it was a might be a cool correlation.

Steve 23:42
I don't know, one way or the other with that, but certainly finally managed to survive in places where some other things don't. I think the theory is now that they were instrumental in life inhabiting the land without without the fangers then the plants wouldn't have been able to grow. So they're absolutely essential for life. Without the you know, we have beautiful forests around here you have beautiful forests in North America. And most of those photos Well, I don't think any of them would be able to grow without finding so

Lera 24:16
I've had one of your photos of the lipsius impervia. It's one of the magenta fuchsia colored cup fungi. It's been the background on my computer for almost two years probably it's definitely one of my favorites. But I wanted to ask you if you had a favorite photo or a handful that if someone could only see five which which ones would you share with them,

Steve 24:40
we'll probably one would be the blue fangers which in the past called lorado Mises but in fact isn't. But they've been they've been trying to name it for about eight years. I think

Alex 24:54
I was just showing that to lira and I was like this is so you if you were a mushroom Because your name is lira.

Steve 25:02
But it's not an I. It's not the mushrooms name anyway, right. But what they originally was found in New Caledonia. And then I think it's since then been found on Lord Howe Island, which is a bit closer to Australia. And I've found it on the mainland around where I live. But no further than that. So far, it's just very localized to hear that the original specimens they got, they thought it was all the same mushroom To start with, they did the DNA sequencing on it. And they found that no, it wasn't one mushroom, it was three separate species. And not just three separate species, three separate geniuses, as well. So it was very complicated. And the mycologists in Australia, there aren't very many of them working as taxonomists, I think the most five and there's still still deciding on a name, I think. So that's one. Another one would be my senior chlorophylls luminous bangus

Alex 26:06
I'm looking at the calendar and that is the mushroom of July.

Lera 26:11
What do you know? Ah, yes,

Steve 26:13
there is another calendar for next year out now, which are nicely getting in my name. And there isn't one for Susan 22. So the company that that makes them, they just approached me a couple of years ago and said, Joe, would you like to be involved in calendars? And they offered me some money to do that? So I said yes, because I used to produce them on red bubble but red bubble stop making calendars. So when someone kind of came along and offered to make them for me and pay me for the privilege and now jumped at it.

Alex 26:50
And I asked about places maybe that you haven't been to that you you want to visit. And just to kind of a follow up question on that. Is there a specific mushroom or mushrooms that you haven't taken a picture of that you would love one day to find and and photograph

Steve 27:09
really we find so many different mushrooms, the every place I go I find mushrooms that I'd never even heard of before. So it isn't a matter of saying out there's this one that I would really like to see

Lera 27:26
when Alex net come to Australia we'll have to ask you your favorite mushroom foraging sites where we're at indigo, just fungal diversity,

Steve 27:35
probably the my favorite place to recommend to visitors would be Tasmania because Tasmania, I know that if I go there and say the beginning of May, you will find lots of mushroom, whereas up here it's got to have rained so we have the summer rain and if you get a four or five days of continuous rain then you'll get mushrooms but you just as like you get two or three weeks fairly hot weather in which case you won't get any so someone plans to come out in say March and you're likely to get mushrooms then that you may not. Whereas if you go to Tasmania in autumn, so in May you will always get mushrooms particularly down the West Coast New Zealand's the same other parts of the EU and the Himalayas in the pile. It's the same too.

Alex 28:30
I haven't been to Australia in about 10 years and love it that's I've learned how to surf in Australia and I'm dying to go back and New Zealand as well kind of have to make that a joint trip if you go all the way out

Steve 28:47
well here is one of the best surfing spots in the world. So if you want to come out because the continental shelf off the coast here I think is only goes out about 30 kilometers so continental shelves use about 200 k wide so if you get any nice storms off the coast, then the waves quite impressive.

Alex 29:08
I was over at Bondi Beach I don't know if you know that

Steve 29:12
everyone knows bonsai birch.

Alex 29:15
Gorgeous Yeah, I can't wait to go back

Steve 29:17
to many people there though.

Alex 29:19
Yeah, definitely is very touristy. But for surfing. They also had a really cool skatepark. This is when I was young. Yeah, it's great, great as a little kid and had some friends over there. Love to go back.

Lera 29:32
And Steve you also contributed a good amount of footage to fantastic fungi, which is a sensation right now and it has some of the most beautiful reels of time lapses of fungi and I know that Louie Schwartzberg contributed, but a lot of your work was in there as well, right?

Steve 29:52
Yes, that's right. I think there's 20 of my Eclipse in there. So most of the California faggy and the variety I think, is added by what I've got.

Lera 30:05
Is there a favorite that you have in there?

Steve 30:07
Oh, I've got lots of favorites. I'd have to go and have a look at the actual clips and see which one? I think there's one towards the end. Which is, yeah, the two at the end. They actually took about a month or two time lapse, like it's quite slow growing fangers

Lera 30:27
which fungus is that?

Steve 30:29
It's the, what we call leathery goblet.

Lera 30:34
So the pink kind of cup fungus that's a little bit fairy on the edges, it totally looks like a goblin.

Steve 30:42
Yeah, yeah, they're very common around here. And they they grow, grow quite slowly, their weeks in developing and the fungus can actually survive for years if the conditions are too bad. And it can get up to the biggest one I've seen is 14 inches across. And you'll have a group of them maybe three or four or five in a row. So it's really quite a large clump and quite spectacular. But they they can start off in beautiful shades of pink before they harden up to a sort of a light tan, very pretty fungus.

Alex 31:20
And when you're when you're featured in films, such as fantastic fungi or the BBC Planet Earth, do you do they send out a team to you? Or do you travel to them? Or do they have a deadline and just tell you to submit time lapses on your own time? How does that process work?

Steve 31:40
Well, in general, I just have cog material, which are by time lapse, finally as the opportunity arises. So I never know which one I'm going to timelapses just which one happens to be growing and which one I can get a good picture of. So they have a look at them. And they pick out the ones they like so there's not with the baby. See, there was a bit more involvement. They certainly you know, the one team has tried coming out here, bringing all their studio equipment, 19 cases of equipment. So they came out here and stayed for two weeks and tried to get time lapse of my senior chloroplast luminous fungus. And they failed. Yeah, just little things, but two weeks isn't long enough. And really doesn't matter how skillful you are. You're going to be lucky to get it in two weeks. Because the weather If nothing else, the way they can be wrong, you know the little things? Well, in one case, what was rather a big thing like a very large Gumtree got blown down in the storm across our power lines. So we lost power for about five days. Now we were using ups to try and avoid power outages. But if you've got a gum tree falls on your power lines, UPS isn't going to help very much

Lera 33:03
this makes your photography seem all the more treasurable is you have to get lucky in so many ways.

Steve 33:10
No, I do it virtually all the time. Like I'm doing one at the moment. Although it's winter, and they're not terribly many Frankie coming up there is this one. So and it might come out? Well, there's a lot of lacking what you point a camera in a particular direction, hoping the fungus will grow in the frame. And sometimes it decides to grow out of the edge of the frame. But sometimes it does really nice things. And this one looks like it might be doing nice things. But we have to wait and say it'll go

Lera 33:42
How often do things go wrong when you're when you find a specimen? And you're actively wanting to get time lapses?

Steve 33:50
Oh, maybe three times out of four.

Lera 33:52
Oh, wow. Thank you for your persistence.

Steve 33:56
Well, once it's set up, it doesn't take all that much. I've got it all set up. I'll put the camera on there. And then I go down and I check change the camera card once a day and see what the fungus has done. Because sometimes you really yeah, you go down you look and you go all the faces got a little bit bigger, but not very much. And when you look at the time lapse, you go, Oh wow. Something else had happened or the fungus had been swaying around. A spider had come along and done some interesting things. So you can never you have to look at the time lapse to find out.

Lera 34:31
It's so illuminating to see fungi grow and not quickened emotion.

Steve 34:36
Yeah, we know a mycologist here who was very excited about the time lapse because as he said it makes him like a an animal for people that animals move and do things but fungus in general just sits there and it's a bit boring for most people, but the time lapse, they really do interesting things that there's one I know that as it grows, it spins and when it's Spin spun so far in one direction and it can't spin any further it spins back in the other direction.

Lera 35:05
Is this a messy? No one like a really small mushroom with really prominent gills? I think I've seen one of your time lapses doing this.

Steve 35:13
Yeah, it's my hairy my senior I call them tiny mushrooms. A lot of hairs growing off the cap. My scene is set long. Just set I think,

Lera 35:25
what are those strange movements? Have you witnessed with time lapses?

Steve 35:30
Well, those are with the coroner's funghi often they sway quite dramatically so they'll grow up and then they start swaying from side to side, which of course you can't see if you just look at them bird in time lapse, they can be quite spectacular with this rain you go What are they doing this for presumably it's to help spread the spores or something like that. But a bit of a buzz when I'm time lapsing things because I go down I'm, I'm never quite sure what's going to happen. So I bring the card up and loaded into the computer and process the time lapse to see what's actually happened in that time. And sometimes you get bits of slime mold coming along and fruiting all in the neck quite quick. So they'll happen in the background with these funny, so I can sit there and watch them for hours.

Alex 36:19
So my favorite to look at are the jack in the box fungi or devils fingers, they kind of pop out of this egg or the ones that dropped down that that really cool veil around the mushroom, it's really it's really cool to see the time lapse because it it moves so slow. And there's almost that moment of eruption or, or this this catalyst of movement and change that's, that's really exciting to see in that version of time, which we don't normally see with, with how we're processing time with just our eyes. So it's it's really amazing to kind of go through a portal, so to speak and witness the world around us and just a different different level.

Steve 37:05
Yeah, they quite interesting, Frankie timelapse, because the eggs can stay there for a long, long time, like weeks or even a month or more. So you put a camera on them hoping something to happen. And you go back every day, nothing, the agency gets bigger, nothing. And then one morning, just in the space of a couple of hours, the egg will crack open and the entire mushroom will come out will inflate with water. And so you've got to you can't be photographing this, say 20 minute intervals or something because it'll just be gone in in less than a second. So you've got to take quite fast by fast. I mean maybe every three minutes or four minutes or something, but that adds up to a hell of a lot of photographs over a couple of weeks. Right. So I've got 20 terabytes of photographs and time lapse multiplied by two of course because you got to have a backup for everything

Lera 38:04
for many hard drives. Do you have 40 terabytes

Steve 38:07
I have a lot there's probably a couple of dozen

Alex 38:11
when our favorite experiences with with egg fungi is with the stink corns, eggs that we found. We we saw this thing online that you could you know bring it home and your your own little terrarium. So we we picked up some soil and put it in the cap of a mason jar, turn the mason jar upside down and put the eggs in this little soil terrarium, lots of humidity and wet this soil and we put it you know by our bed and fell asleep. And it was the craziest experience because when we went to sleep, you know the eggs were whole. And when we woke up, it was a full almost a full grown mushroom popping up. And we you know, it's like the craziest double take that we've ever done of like, Wait a second. And I remember we were sharing a house at the time. So we had roommates and we put it by the kitchen sink and you know people do their dishes. And I always remember my roommate seeing it in the morning. And he came back at the end of the day after work and he was washing dishes is kind of out of it. He was tired at the end of the day and he looks up and he goes Whoa. And he's like that's a new mushroom. You put a new mushroom in there. Like no way did it grow that fast. And that one was we didn't get a time lapse. And I like you said you got to take a picture every couple of minutes because they grow unbelievably fast. It's almost like an oyster mushroom. If you've ever cultivated that they just grow so fast and you leave the room you go grocery shopping. I mean it's like what I hear about having a kid times flies and you're like you, you know you pick up some groceries you come back and they're seven years old.

Steve 39:56
Well for my experience, not quite, but just But you're right about the, the stink horns, they tend to come up in the early hours of the morning. So through the day, they won't tend to pop up so much or maybe you're dawn bird through that early as the morning and then they can come up and it can literally only take an hour sometimes for the entire thing to inflate so the mushroom is forms, the structure of the mushroom forms completely in that egg and then when the egg burst it just inflates with water pumped up so it needs to be kept moist, provided it's got enough water it sucks it all in and just throws this mushroom out really cold. Like I had one on planet earth too. There was a lot of a lot of separate clips, but there was one of what we call the starfish stink on SRO II rubra to give it its correct name, but it comes out with these tentacles and it's fantastic and I did exactly what you did I put them in my shed put a camera on them turn the camera on came back the next day and boom. They just happened I just was very lucky that they came up after a day because as I said I've done the same thing to other eggs and a month later I give up and then they hatch.

Lera 41:20
Do you ever ask yourself the mushrooms you photograph are edible and Do you ever find yourself venturing out and eating something like a steamed corn? I didn't realize this pristine corns are elemental and I actually ate the raw egg. It was interesting. tasted spongy radish kind of like crossed with a gusher because as soon as you sink your teeth in it just all the built up power. It kind of erupts in your mouth and pick up bounces bungee radish.

Steve 41:50
Hmm. Yeah, we we go to your Nan quite a lot. We've been there four times at the invitation of the Kunming Institute of botany, and in your Nan they eat 900 species of fungus. Wow. So yeah, some of these will be ***, but they you know, they sell stinker ones in the markets, but they don't need this sort of smelly top, they remove that. So they've just got the shaft and they said, I suspect it's quite tasteless birds, because it's not sold at a high price. You know, some of the mushrooms they're extremely high prices.

Alex 42:27
So it's just reading about quarter cepsa KDA, which they call vegetable cicada. And they I was reading about a study by this guy. He was curious how many people actually eat it is 25% of the population. And it's a really strange looking fungus. I mean, the the bug as well, the whole thing. Yeah, I was watching looking at pictures of soups and dishes of these. I mean, cicada wood, big mushrooms coming out of their head just on in on the side of the dish or in the soup in is. It's not something that 25% of the population. That's a lot. And I I've never heard of this cordyceps and until last fall, and it's interesting. They've been using it and as food for thousands of years. So I respect it. I love it. That's great. Would you say 900 species?

Steve 43:22
Yeah, and Yunan alone? I think across the

Lera 43:25
I can't even name 900 species.

Steve 43:27
Yeah, they're, you know, most people, they're no mushrooms I know about mushrooms. So the the general level of knowledge of the population is way higher than it is certainly in Australia. But you know, they've been brought up with it. It's a $2 billion industry and you name so it's quite important, you know, their entire towns that are just dedicated to mushrooms, not just one there. You know, we know three or four. By towns I mean yo with populations of 100,000 or more. It's really big business there. We met mushroom traders who sell to Japan and Europe, depending on the time of year and they really make quite a good trade. They have Ganoderma as their they grow these commercially, but they grow them to the size of tabletops. absolutely enormous.

Alex 44:18
I want to get one so bad. They're

Steve 44:21
they're quite expensive, but tabletop sized one costs several thousand dollars, but there's got

Lera 44:25
to grow our own. I feel like

Steve 44:28
you can cultivate your own and then you just grow them over several years, and they get to be really big.

Lera 44:35
And where else does your work show up in film?

Steve 44:38
Yeah, we we've made our own film. So we Yeah, there's lots of my time lapse that have ended up on a lot of different nature documentaries, including fantastic faggy. But we always thought we'd like to make a film ourselves. But we were a bit limited in there's just two of us. Have No, no one's giving us any money to do this. So on one of our field trips over to northeast India, we decided to breed make a documentary of it, just what we do when we go out into the field and a bit about mostly magalia in northeast India, or Meghalaya, depending where you come from, but it's, it's a fascinating look at the local area and the bit about mushrooms. And it's just a fun, funky tour of a fairly unknown place. And we're planning to release it in September.

Lera 45:31
That's any day now. Awesome.

Steve 45:33
That's not very long at all. So there's not much coming out with Godot. COVID-19 at the moment,

Lera 45:39
You got a lot of time on your hands.

Steve 45:41

Alex 45:41
So we have one final question. And we asked all of our guests on our show this question. So if mushrooms had the microphone, and could say one thing to the whole human race, what would they say?

Steve 45:58
Um, I'm tempted to say mushrooms don't care. But they would say something like chill out guys don't. Don't stuff fills up.

Lera 46:16
Well, Steve, thank you for all of your work and for contributing such beautiful fungal photography for all of us to feast our eyes upon and enjoy forever. I love that you publish these to your website, and you make it super accessible for people to browse and just help people fall in love with fungi even more. So thanks for doing the work and publishing the work and sharing it.

Alex 46:40
And your website is Steve x Are there any other resources that people can see your work? I think you're in Planet Earth too. Is that right? Is there any other documentaries or movies or websites that feature your work?

Steve 47:01
We've we've been making some films recently. My partner, Catherine is filmmaker. So we've got a, a we call ourselves Planet funghi. Or planet fungi. And we've got to use Instagram sites, Facebook site and YouTube. And we'll be releasing a film called Planet funghi. Northeast India. Yeah, September and yeah, it's it's really something special actually. Because we went over to northeast India. If first in 2018 and we decided to film a lot of the stuff that we did and the people we met and the festivals we went to so it's Pat. Pat travelogue but mostly about search for Frankie in places like magalia and Dora Nacho and disarm, rich, not very often visited places in northeast India, and the galley is the wettest place on Earth. So we went to the wettest place on Earth at the wettest time of the year. Wow, by wettest place on Earth. I mean, I get 12 meters of rain a year.

Lera 48:37
Oh my goodness. I never knew that.

Steve 48:42
It's about 40 feet.

Alex 48:52
Well, I'm so excited for this. This planet fungi funghi. documentary. And yeah, I'll be I'll be counting the days and I'm excited for to check out with all my quarter steps and other mushroom shirts and throw pillows and clocks and journals. stickers and you name it I'm gonna be funky doubt. Um, and thanks again for coming on our show. I can't wait to go to Australia and maybe see you at a mushroom conference or go mushroom foraging with you. And thank you everyone for tuning in and tuning in to another episode of mushroom revival podcast. We love you so much. So please reach out if you have any questions, comments. Do you have any future guests that you want us to bring on our show? Any feature topics that you want us to talk about? and head over to www dot mushroom datura Bible comm we have all the rest of our podcasts on there. A whole line of blog posts you could read through a lot of educational content and a whole line of functional mushroom extracts. And if you do us a huge favor if you are listening on Apple podcasts if you want to subscribe, hit that subscribe button and share it with your friends. You can screenshot it posted on your social media or classic word of mouth. Just tell your friends and family how awesome this podcast is. And we'd love you so much. So thank you so much, much love and may the spores be with you.

Transcribed by *** Subject to error